"Rewriting History in Textbooks"
by Mitchell Bard
(Updated December 1993)
For many years, publishers
have been pressured to revise textbooks to better reflect
multicultural values. As in the political correctness
debate, in general, Jews have stayed mostly on the sidelines.
The result is that distortions of Jewish history have
become a feature of some of the most frequently assigned
textbooks and little effort has been made to monitor
or rectify the situation.
To be fair, writing textbooks that
satisfy everyone is probably impossible. Most have multiple
authors and are therefore unevenly written. The authors
rarely have a background in Middle East or Jewish history.
Moreover, in 800-page tomes designed to cover all of
world and American history, events must be condensed.
In the case of U. S. history texts, space devoted to
Jews, Israel and the Middle East is by necessity limited.
Still, given the extent of media coverage on the Middle
East, and the level of U.S. aid provided to Israel,
one might expect greater efforts would be made to explain
the basis of the U.S.-Israel alliance.
Occasional mistakes can be expected
to slip through the editing process. Still, it is startling
to find references to the 1973 war that failed to mention
that Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack against
Israel on Yom Kippur, or that some recent texts describe
the 1991 Gulf War and omit that Iraq fired SCUD missiles
at Israel. After reviewing 11 world and 7 American history
texts that are among the most widely used, it became
clear, however, that inadequate and inaccurate depictions
of Middle East history are the norm. The books reviewed
here are riddled with flaws. Moreover, errors are consistently
to the detriment of the Jews or Israel, which raises
questions about the predisposition of the authors and
publishers. The anti-Israel bias rarely is manifested
in the way material is interpreted, it is usually a
result of factual inaccuracy, oversimplification, omission
and distortion. The conclusions students are most likely
to draw from these presentations are those held by Israel's
detractors; therefore, it should not be surprising if
students are easily encouraged to believe the worst
about Israel when they reach politicized college campuses.
Even more worrisome is the likelihood that future American
leaders will have their earliest political attitudes
toward Israel shaped by misinformation.
- Executive Summary
- Outright Errors
- Islamic Tolerance
- The Holocaust
- Apologists for Authoritarianism
- Jewish Invaders
- Spontaneous Combustion
- Refugees and Revisionism
- Searching for Terrorists
- The Heroic Intifada
- War Erupts
- Israel as the Obstacle to Peace
- What Can Be Done?
The political correctness debate
has led to increased scrutiny of how textbooks present
the history of different peoples. While many minorities
have actively campaigned to have their histories more
accurately depicted, Jews have stayed on the sidelines.
The following examination of 18 of the most widely used
world and American history texts indicates this silence
has allowed publishers to distribute books that are
filled with egregious factual errors and specious analyses.
The mistakes invariably are to the detriment of the
Jews or Israel, raising questions about the predisposition
of authors and publishers.
The anti-Israel bias is usually
a result of factual inaccuracy, oversimplification,
omission and distortion. Common errors include getting
dates of events wrong, blaming Israel for wars that
were a result of Arab provocation, perpetuating the
myth of Islamic tolerance of Jews, minimizing the Jewish
aspect of the Holocaust, apologizing for Arab autocrats,
refusing to label violence against civilians as terrorism
and suggesting that Israel is the obstacle to peace.
Some of the most flagrant examples that occur in more
than one book are the failure to mention that Syria
and Egypt launched a surprise attack in 1973 on Israel's
holiest day, Yom Kippur, and that Iraq fired SCUD missiles
at Israel during the 1991 Gulf War. The books in this
study were so poorly written that all but one require
The best way to correct the bias
in textbooks is for parents to take an active role by
examining the books their children are being assigned.
If they know or suspect that Jewish history is being
distorted, they should protest to the school, school
board and publisher. The study does not suggest that
anti-Semitic publishers are conspiring to corrupt our
nation's youth. On the contrary, it acknowledges that
errors are most likely to occur because editors are
harried or the books are inadequately reviewed by experts.
The best publishers do now want mistakes in their texts.
It is up to parents and educators, however, to alert
them when they occur so they can be corrected. The result
will then be that publishers produce better books and
students have more useful educational tools.
Here are a few examples of factual
inaccuracies: T. Walter Wallbank and Arnold Schrier
start their chapter on the Middle East in Living
World History (Scott, Foresman and Co., 1990) with
a photo captioned: "the Amal fighters of the Palestine
Liberation Organization keep watch over Beirut."
Amal is an organization of Lebanese Shiite Muslims that
fought with the PLO. Paul Thomas Welty and Miriam Greenblatt,
in The Human Experience-World Regions and Cultures (Glencoe, 1992), say the PLO was expelled from
Jordan in 1971 rather than 1970. In the earlier edition
of The Human Experience-A World History (Merrill
1990, 1992), Mounir Farah and Andrea Karls wrote that
the Arabs attacked a "few days" after Israel
declared independence. The 1992 edition correctly states
that the invasion occurred within 24 hours.
The ignorance of geography among high
school students has often been decried, but how can
they be blamed when they read this description in Global
Insights-People And Culture (Glencoe, 1988, 1994),
written by James Hantula et al.: "An area of Middle
Eastern land, surrounded by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan,
Syria and Lebanon, used to be called Palestine, and
Arabs and Jews lived there." The name Palestine
was given to an area that existed before Syria, Saudi
Arabia or Lebanon existed. In 1921, Britain severed
nearly four-fifths of Palestine to create Transjordan
Another general problem is oversimplification.
Though the reading skills of high school students have
deteriorated, it was still shocking to discover the
"See Spot run" kind of descriptions offered
by some texts. The worst book of the 18 under review, World History, by Jerome Reich, Mark Krug and
Edward Biller (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1990), contains
the following sentence: "The Jewish people were
very unhappy under Roman rule." No further explanation
is given. The authors devote a total of five pages to
the Middle East, out of more than 700, and half are
taken up by a map and photos. This is what they say
about Israel's war of independence: "Fighting began
between Israel and the Arab nations in 1948. This fighting
ended in a victory for Israel." The book does not
even mention the Palestinians.
Melvin Schwartz and John O'Connor write
in Exploring A Changing World (Globe Book,
1993): "In 1948 the nation of Israel was formed.
This started a war." Later, they say: "Since
the 1948 war, border fights have broken out. Again in
1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982, Israel and some of its Arab
neighbors went to war....Israel is still involved in
conflicts with its neighbors, especially Lebanon."
Similarly, Hantula et al. relate in Global Insights that "at the core of these
[Arab-Israeli wars] was disagreement over who owns the
land of Israel, once called Palestine." After the
1948 war, they say, three other wars "broke out."
This is the extent of how the text covers the 1948-77
Perhaps the most serious flaws in most
books are distortions resulting from a combination of
omission and commission. This is particularly true of
the coverage of Islamic history and Muslims' treatment
of Jews in the world history texts. The increased attention
given to Islam is one change made to recent editions.
Its prominence is now at least equal to that of Judaism
and Christianity and, in some books, surpasses them.
The significance of Islam to world history is not in
doubt. What is historically inaccurate, however, is
the portrayal of Muslims as paragons of tolerance, particularly
Don Peretz, a Middle East scholar who
should know better, wrote in the regional studies text, The Middle Fast (Houghton Mifflin, 1990), that
Muslim conquests in the 7th Century were welcomed by
Jews because they were offered religious toleration.
As proof of this toleration, he said Jews were appointed
to high positions. Wallbank and Schrier's Living
World History says that conquered peoples "were
generally treated with leniency" by Muslims. Several
books cite Maimonides as an example of how Jews flourished
In Global Insights, Hantula
et al. refer to dhimmas, which they define
as "non-Muslims who lived under Islamic rule."
The authors say dhimmas did not have to serve
in the army, but did pay poll taxes. Many Jews, they
add, became famous court physicians. The authors acknowledge
that "during certain periods of Islamic rule, non-Muslims
in some areas were restricted in their activities and
in the way they dressed," but they imply this was
justified because it "generally happened when there
was an invasion by foreigners toward whom local non-Muslims
World History-Patterns of Civilization (Prentice Hall, 1990) by Benton Beers is one of
the few books that hints that life was not so ideal,
noting that Islam protected Jews "in theory if
not always in practice." Farah and Karls put it
differently, writing that Jews were "treated better
under Muslim rule than they had been before" but
did not have all the advantages Muslims did. While Jewish
communities in Islamic countries fared better overall
than those in Christian lands in Europe, Jews were no
strangers to persecution and humiliation among the Arabs.
As historian Bernard Lewis has written: "The Golden
Age of equal rights was a myth, and belief in it was
a result, more than a cause, of Jewish sympathy with
Islam" ("The Pro-Islamic Jews," Judaism,
Fall 1968, p. 401).
Jews were generally viewed with contempt
by their Muslim neighbors; peaceful coexistence between
the two groups involved the subordination and degradation
of the Jews. Jews did thrive culturally and economically
at certain times, but their position was never secure
and changes in the political and social climate would
often lead to harassment, violence and death.
In the last two years, efforts by historical
revisionists to place advertisements in American college
newspapers received a great deal of publicity. Such
efforts to negate or minimize the catastrophe that befell
the Jews might not cause so much concern if people had
greater confidence in the quality of education students
received about the Holocaust. Any confidence that may
exist is likely to be shaken, however, by looking at
how U.S. high school textbooks treat the subject.
Based on the 18 books reviewed here,
it would be incorrect to say that revisionists have
had any impact on publishers. In general, the American
history texts are far better than those covering world
history. The most consistent problem is that so little
space is devoted to the Holocaust that the magnitude
of the atrocities of the Nazi period is lost. Most of
the books spent no more than two or three paragraphs
on this cataclysmic event. World History, by
Reich et al., for example, devotes two sentences to the Holocaust and the word does not appear in
their index. Jack Abramowitz, in World History-For
A Global Age (Globe Book Co., 1985), is a little
better, he has two paragraphs.
American history texts often skip the
period of Nazi persecution prior to the war. In American
Journey (Prentice Hall, 1992), for example, James
West Davidson et al. have a single line stating that
Hitler blamed the Jews for Germany's defeat in World
Usually, the critical aspects of the
Nazi terror are ignored. World History-Patterns
of Civilization by Beers, for example, describes Kristallnacht (without using the word) and
implies the cause of the pogrom was a Jew who murdered
a German diplomat in Paris. In The Middle East, Peretz says Nazi persecution of the Jews began with Kristallnacht. In The Human Experience—A
World History, Farah and Karls define concentration
camps as "large prisons" and the Holocaust
as "widespread destruction." Gary Nash's American
Odyssey (Glencoe, 199 1) provides good information
through pictures and quotations about synagogues being
torched, Jews being forced to wear yellow stars, Kristallnacht and Nazi propaganda, but the material is poorly
The true horror of events is not captured
in any of the books. In most, it is reduced to the statistic
that six million Jews were killed. In their three paragraphs
on the subject, Welty and Greenblatt (The Human
Experience--World Regions and Cultures, Glencoe,
1992), mention that people were killed with poison gas
but say nothing about gas chambers or crematoria.
Wallbank and Schrier's Living World
History devotes more space than most books to the
subject, but leaves readers confused because of the
way the material is spread across different chapters.
In their section on the war, mention is made of 11 million
people being killed, but Jews are just lumped in with
the rest. That six million of these were Jews is not
stated until later in the book. Similarly, the word
"Holocaust" does not appear until they review
the war crimes trials, 40 pages after discussing (in
greater detail than most) the Nazi persecution of the
Jews. This also is one of several books that refer to
the Nuremberg trials without explaining their significance.
One misleading assertion concerning
the Holocaust is that the Final Solution was not "fully
discovered" until after the war. The American history
texts usually say that reports reached the Allies during
the war, but the full horror was not revealed until
the camps were liberated. Farah and Karls acknowledge
in The Human Experience-A World History that
the Allies heard "rumors" about Nazi genocide,
but like the other world history books fail to report
what American officials knew and what actions they took
(and did not take) on the basis of that information. The United States and Its People (Addison-Wesley,
1993) by David King, Norman McRae and Jaye Zola is the
most accurate in stating that American newspapers began
reporting atrocities as early as 1942 and explaining
reasons why they were not believed.
Given the quality of the writing on
the Holocaust, it is not surprising that the centrality
of the Nazi campaign against the Jews is sometimes lost.
Schwartz and O'Connor write in Exploring A Changing
World, for example: "For about 2,000 years,
many Jewish people lived in Europe. But during the rule
of Adolf Hitler in Germany, millions of Jews were killed."
Like most books, they mention that Hitler "blamed
all of the country's troubles on the Jews." They
go on to say that "Hitler had six million Jews
and many other innocent people murdered in what became
known as the Holocaust."
The American history texts focus more
on the U.S. government's position, and several refer
to the immigration restrictions imposed before and during
the war. Mary Beth Norton et al., in A People &
A Nation (Houghton Mifflin, 1990), for example,
tell the story of the St. Louis and the Bermuda
Conference. They and several others also talk about
the failure of the Allies to bomb Auschwitz.
One reflection of the popular value-free
approach to history is the tendency to equate actions
to avoid assigning responsibility or appearing to take
sides. Thus, for example, in World History-Traditions
and New Directions (Addison-Wesley, 1989), Peter
Steams, Donald Schwartz and Barry Beyer draw an astonishing
parallel between the actions of the Germans and the
Allies. "Nazi murder of the Jews and other groups
was the foremost atrocity of the war, but the Allies
also acted harshly," they write.
The most obvious conclusion to draw
from reading textbook descriptions, particularly in
the world history books, is that scholars need to write
a few descriptive paragraphs that could be used to explain
the Nazi extermination program, what made the experience
of the Jews unique, and the impact it had on the world.
Nash's American Odyssey and The United
States and Its People by King et al. have good
material to work from. Probably
the best section on the Holocaust in
any of the 18 books appears in Henry Graff's America:
The Glorious Republic (MA: Houghton Mifflin, Co.,
Apologists for Authoritarianism
Despite the attention given to Islam,
there is a clear lack of proportion to the space devoted
to the 20 members of the Arab League. Most books write
little or nothing about countries other than Egypt and
Saudi Arabia. Peretz, for example, devotes chapters
in The Middle East to Israel and Egypt and
a third one to the rest of the Arab states. In World
History--Traditions and New Directions, Stearns et
al. spend 11 paragraphs on Israel and 11 on the other
Middle East nations.
While the approach toward Islam strains
for neutrality, the coverage of Arab politics tends
toward apologetics. Inter-Arab conflict is rarely mentioned.
Abramowitz, in World History for A Global Age, is one of the few who spent as much as a paragraph
on the subject, and he referred only to the Palestinians
The most serious distortion appears
in the descriptions of Arab regimes, which are usually
portrayed in benign or positive terms, and the ascension
of leaders to power is grossly misrepresented. Beers
writes in World History-Patterns of Civilization that Hafez Assad simply "became President"
of Syria in 1971. Wallbank and Schrier say the same
thing in Living World History, under the subhead:
"Egypt, Syria and Iraq benefitted from strong leadership."
They do add that Assad has ruled "with an iron
hand," but they seem to justify it by explaining
that the Muslim Brotherhood carried out more than 300
assassinations in 1981. Assad kept Syria united, Wallbank
and Schrier say, "at the cost of dictatorship and
the absence of free expression." They fail to mention
that he also put down the Brotherhood's rebellion by
razing the city of Hama and killing as many as 25,000
In The Middle East, Peretz
at least mentions the coups in Iraq and Syria that were
the most frequent method of changing governments, but
neither he nor any of the others point out the deficiencies
in the political systems in the Arab countries. Schwartz
and O'Connor write in Exploring A Changing World, for example, that since World War II, the newly
independent Arab nations "have worked to establish
stable governments." In The Human Experience--World
Regions and Cultures, Welty and Greenblatt go so
far as to excuse Arab governments for adopting authoritarian
forms of government. They assert that military takeovers
are common because army officers are better educated,
the army is the most effective power base other than
religion and historical tradition favors military rule
in the Arab world. These are the same authors who write
that one of Faisal's first acts as King of Saudi Arabia
in 1964 was to abolish slavery, as if nothing
was unusual about the practice of slavery a century
after the Emancipation Proclamation. They also ignore
the evidence that slavery continues to be practiced
in parts of the Arab world to this day.
Like some other authors, Steams et
al. talk more about how the Arabs triumphantly threw
off colonialism than how they subsequently imposed despotism.
"Many leaders felt that the political challenges
of rapid modernization required strong leadership and
government control," students are taught in World
History-Traditions and New Directions.
Furthermore, the books do not distinguish
Israel's political system from that of the Arab states.
Schwartz and O'Connor do observe in Exploring A
Changing World that "Israel has one of the
few democratic governments in this region," but
it is not clear what other governments they have in
mind as democracies.
The coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict
is particularly abysmal. Much of the crucial history
of Palestine before 1948 is omitted, particularly
from the U.S. history books. Those texts that discuss
the mandatory period present the Arab version of history;
that is, an unrestrained flood of Jewish immigrants
invaded a land already inhabited by another people,
who were subsequently forced out. The historical Jewish
presence in the country is usually ignored. Beers, for
example, implies in World History--Patterns of Civilization that no Jews lived in Palestine until Eastern Europeans
came in the 1920's and 30's (nearly 40 years after the
First Aliyah) and found more than 650,000 Arabs
already living there. Farah and Karls write in The
Human Experience-A World History that only 50,000
Jews, most from Eastern Europe, lived in Palestine at
the time of the First World War, comprising only 10
percent of the population. The actual number was more
than 80,000, closer to 15 percent of the total population.
Welty and Greenblatt say in The Human Experience--World
Regions and Cultures that Jews only migrated to
Palestine from the 1920's on and give the impression
the British did not impose restrictions until right
before WWII. Peretz goes further in The Middle East and implies Zionists were given advantages by the
British because the First High Commissioner, Herbert
Samuel, was a Jew.
In the 1990 edition of The
Human Experience-A World History, Farah and Karls
mention that the British limited immigration and that
Arabs staged protests and attacked Jews. It incorrectly
states, however, that the Jews "rioted against
British limits on immigration" in the 1920's. In the newer edition, they say the flow of immigrants
"swelled to a torrent" during World War II
and that the Arabs began to attack settlers to slow
the influx. By the end of the war, they say, guerilla
raids were common in Palestine, but do not specify who
was responsible. They also fail to mention the extraordinary
British efforts to curtail immigration at this time.
"Despite Arab opposition, the
rate of Jewish immigration was stepped up, and the number
of Jews in the country increased greatly, causing fear
that they would soon outnumber the Arabs," according
to Peretz in The Middle East. The truth is
that Jewish immigration was constant from 1920 to 1923,
increased about 60 percent in 1924 (to less than 14,000),
and then nearly tripled in 1925. New restrictions were
then imposed by the British, however, and the rate dropped
back less than 14,000 the next year and then was no
more than 5,200 in any year until 1932. The numbers
began to dramatically increase again, reaching a peak
of more than 66,000 in 1935, but then new limitations
were imposed and the numbers fell equally dramatically
for the next three years, to less than 15,000. Arabs
did express fears of being dispossessed, but British
commissions consistently found them unfounded (yet placed
new restrictions on immigration). Meanwhile, no text
offers any statistics regarding the immigration of Arabs
into Palestine. Actually, the non-Jewish population
grew more than the Jewish population between the wars.
A good deal of effort is also made
to glorify Arab nationalism. Given the lack of attention
to the nature of Arab regimes, these discussions imply
a progressive movement toward democracy that has yet
to occur. In The Middle East, Peretz asserts
that nationalism was especially strong in Palestine
after World War I, though he admits "its inhabitants
did not consider themselves different from those who
lived in the adjoining Arab regions that became the
present-day nations of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan."
Peretz: also incorrectly reports that Chaim Weizmann
never reached an agreement with Emir Faisal, the son
of Sherif Hussein. In fact, Faisal accepted the Balfour
Declaration (another contradiction to the Arab claim
that the Arabs believed the British promised them Palestine),
but made the agreement contingent on the British fulfilling
their promises. When they did not, the deal fell apart.
The American history books ignore Zionism,
the waves of immigration to the holy land and the Balfour
Declaration. In American Journey, Davidson
et al. make it sound like the only Jews who wanted a
homeland were those fleeing the Nazis.
The mandatory period is described as
a time when Arabs and Jews simultaneously or spontaneously
clashed. Usually, no one is blamed for inciting the
violence. Stearns et al. write in World History-Traditions
and New Directions, for example, that Arabs lived
in Palestine "for thousands of years." They
mention violence between the two groups increasing over
the years without drawing any distinctions as to whom
the instigators were. Similarly, Beers says in World
History--Patterns of Civilization that after World
War II the Arabs felt threatened by a new wave of immigrants
and "new clashes occurred .... The fighting escalated
as Arabs and Jews fought to control the towns and villages
of Palestine." Jewish immigration "continued
and grew, until by the late 1930's, Jews accounted for
nearly one-third of Palestine's population," Hantula
et al. write in Global Insights. "Before
long, riots and armed conflict broke out." But
battles did not just break out, particularly at this
time, when Arab guerrillas were carrying out most of
the attacks. It was not until after the partition decision,
and Arab forces had already begun to infiltrate, that
Jews began to fight for control of towns and villages.
The way these passages are written, however, the insinuation
is that Jewish immigration rather than Arab rejectionism
was the cause of the violence.
One of the more misleading accounts
of the history leading up to the partition decision
is presented by Wallbank and Schrier's Living World
History, which says the Jews opposed an independent
government based on a democratic vote because the government
would have been dominated by Arabs. The implication
is that the Arabs favored democracy while Zionists opposed
it, and that the Palestinians wanted to hold a plebiscite
to decide the fate of the area. In fact, nothing resembling
democracy was extant in the Arab world and certainly
was not a feature of Palestinian politics, which were
driven primarily by longstanding clan relationships.
The Arabs' position was that Palestine was only big
enough for a state in which they would have total control,
including the right to prevent Jewish immigration. After
independence, Israel did adopt a democratic form of
government in which Arab citizens had equal rights.
Though the United States played a vital
role in the establishment of the State of Israel, little
attention is paid to the crucial decisions made in 1947-48.
Winthrop Jordan, Miriam Greenblatt and John Bowes write
in The Americans (McDougal, Littell and Co.,
1992) that the U.N. proclaimed the republic of Israel,
but do not mention the creation of an Arab state or
U.S. policy toward partition. Similarly, in History
of the United States (Houghton Mifflin, 199 1),
Thomas DiBacco, Lorna Mason and Christian Appy say that
Jewish settlers founded the Jewish State. They do note
that the Arab nations refused to accept Israel's existence
and invaded after it was declared, but fail to elaborate.
According to Gary Nash's American
Odyssey, "hostility between Arabs and Jews
took root after World War II" (emphasis
added). He says the Arabs dominated the region and would
not give up their land to immigrant Jews, though they
did in fact sell large amounts. In a Study Guide at
the bottom of the section relating to the creation of
Israel, Nash explains the Jewish connection with the
land, but says that in 1948 "Jews reclaimed their
ancient homeland, but in the process the Palestinians
lost theirs." Of course, had they accepted partition,
the Palestinians would have had a state. Moreover, most
Palestinians remained in Palestine, in either the areas
that became Israel or Jordan.
In A People & A Nation, Norton
et al. say Israel was carved out of the British mandate
without explaining how Great Britain came to control
the area, what role the U.N. played or Jewish claims
to the land. The authors jump to the recognition of
Israel, which they explain by "America's perceived
need for international allies" and Truman's "desire
for Jewish American votes." While the latter justification
is often cited, the former has never been raised by
any scholar of the period. Paul Boyer et al., writing
in The Enduring Vision: The History of the American
People (DC Heath, 1990), also attribute Truman's
decision to the Jewish vote, but at least acknowledge
this was only part of the reason for his action. The
book does not elaborate on the others.
One of the few American history books
to discuss the situation prior to 1947 is David King
et al's. The United States and Its People. When
it comes to the UN partition decision, however, they
attribute the result to sympathy for the victims of
the Holocaust. They also create the misimpression that
the 1948 war was between Palestinians and Jews by saying
the Arab states sent troops to help the Palestinian
Arabs when in fact most Palestinians fled to avoid the
fighting and the Arab states attacked with the intention
of driving the Jews into the sea.
Perhaps it is a rejection of the old
methods of forcing students to memorize names and dates,
but it was surprising to see how few of the books gave
the precise dates of events. Hantula et al., for example,
say in Global Insights that the Arabs invaded
Israel in the spring of 1948. The exact date is important,
however, because the Arabs invaded immediately after
Israel's declaration of independence, demonstrating
that the establishment of the state was viewed as the
aggression rather than anything the new state did.
In the 1992 edition of The Human
Experience-A World History, Farah and Karls give
a good explanation of the partition plan and the Arab
invasion of the new state, but they exaggerate Israel's
military advantage, saying it was ready with a "flood
of immigrants and arms." At the end of the war
they say Israel had 77 percent of Palestine, 20 percent
more than the U.N. gave them. Beers relates in World
History--Patterns of Civilization that the war
ended with Israel annexing Arab territory and increasing
the size of its territory by 30 percent. In World
History--Traditions and New Directions, Steams
et al. say the U.N. drew up a plan for Palestine, but
does not say that the General Assembly approved it.
Instead, they write only that Arabs outnumbered Jews
two-to-one in Palestine, omitting that Jews were a majority
in the area allotted to them by the partition resolution
and in Jerusalem. Though the Arabs invaded, they say,
Israel ended with "most of Palestine."
It is true that in the course of defending
itself against Arab aggression, Israel gained more territory
than the U.N. allotted; nevertheless, it still held
less than 20 percent of the land that was to have originally
been the Jewish homeland because of the British severing
Transjordan from Palestine. To their credit, Steams
et al. and Farah and Karls point out that Jordan annexed
the area that was to be the "Palestinian state,"
though they do not say that only two countries recognized
Refugees & Revisionism
The history of the Palestinians is
replete with factual errors, omissions and distortions.
Most books give the same explanation for the Palestinian
refugee problem, that they "fled or were expelled."
No one refers to the thousands who left before the fighting
began or before the war was over. Nor do they point
out that the number expelled was a fraction of the total
that left to avoid the war, or in response to Arab leaders'
exhortations to leave. Farah and Karls, for example,
say in The Human Experience--A World History that
the Palestinians "decided-or were forced-to leave
what had been their homeland." This comes after
a discussion of the 1949 armistice, which insinuates
the Palestinians fled after the war. In their 1992 edition,
they adopted a more neutral position, reporting that
as a result of war 700,000 Arabs became homeless. It
is unclear where Farah and Karls and the other authors
who use the same statistic came up with the number of
refugees. The 700,000 figure is lower than the exaggerated
Arab estimates, but still nearly one-third higher than
that of the U.N. Mediator on Palestine.
In World History-For A Global Age, Abramowitz is the only author who alludes to the
fact that 500,000 Jews fled Arab countries in what was,
in effect, an exchange of populations. No mention is
made of the mistreatment of Jews that provoked many
to emigrate from the otherwise tolerant Islamic societies
Also, little is said about the treatment
the Palestinian refugees received from their brethren.
A couple of books do point out the refugees were not
welcomed by the Arab states. Schwartz and O'Connor observe
in Exploring A Changing World that Arab nations
have not given the Palestinians a home, but Wallbank
and Schrier's Living World History is the only
book to note that only Jordan gave them citizenship.
The text also points out that refugee camps became bases
for "violent attacks" against Israel. Hantula
et al's. Global Insights claims they occupy
important posts throughout the Persian Gulf, but neglect
their inability to become citizens and the expulsion
of tens of thousands of Palestinians after the Gulf
The number and condition of the refugees
are distorted in every book that discusses them. Wallbank
and Schrier say most refugee camps became "permanent
settlements" without jobs, farms or services. Hantula
et al., Stearns et al. and Beers all have nearly identical
versions. According to these authors, one-third of the
3.5 million Palestinians live in exile, as many as two
million confined to squalid refugee camps. These descriptions
give the impression that millions of Palestinian refugees
are suffering in camps, but this has not been the case
for decades. According to the United Nations Relief
and Works Agency, two-thirds of the approximately 2.2
million Palestinian refugees are not in camps.
"They live and work like everyone else in the towns
and villages of the Middle East," UNRWA reports.
Moreover, of the five million Palestinians, nearly three-quarters
now live in historic "Palestine," either as
Israeli or Jordanian citizens or in the West Bank and
Searching for Terrorists
It has become politically incorrect
to refer to anyone as terrorists, so it was not surprising
that most authors avoided the label. Beers notes in World History-Patterns of Civilization that
Syria has been "accused of terrorism," but
even this qualified charge is weakened when he misleadingly
adds that Syria has also helped in hostage releases.
Schwartz and O'Connor's Exploring A Changing World refers to attacks by "commandos who slip into
Israel from neighboring Arab countries." Wallbank
and Schrier (Living World History), Welty and
Greenblatt (The Human Experience--World Regions
and Cultures) and Davidson et al. (American
Journey) call the PLO "guerrillas." In The Middle Fast, Peretz refers to the PLO as
a "Palestinian nationalist organization,"
but acknowledges that Israel labels it "a 'terrorist'
organization." Norton et al's. A People &
A Nation says that Palestinian Arabs, many of whom
had been "expelled from their homes in 1948,"
organized the PLO to destroy Israel. They mention attacks
such as the Munich massacre, but do not label them terrorism.
Moreover, the authors seem to equate PLO and Israeli
actions by noting that "Israelis retaliated by
assassinating PLO figures abroad." According to
Stearns et al's World History--Traditions and New
Directions, "guerilla groups" raided
Israeli communities and hijacked airliners and "Israel
retaliated by bombing Egyptian cities." The only
clues as to where they came up with the notion that
Israel bombed Egypt is if they somehow confused the
PLO attacks with the War of Attrition.
Farah and Karls start a section in The Human Experience-A World History by saying
"angry Palestinians turned to strong resistance
to achieve nationhood," and that "militant
refugees formed resistance groups" that merged
in 1964 to form the PLO. They also write that after
1967 the PLO decided on armed struggle to "replace
Israel with an independent Palestinian state for all
Muslims, Jews and Christians." They mention the
Munich massacre being committed by the PLO, but, like
all the others make no reference to the PLO's covenant.
In their newer edition, Farah and Karls use the forbidden
word, but combined terrorist attacks and border raids
so it is not clear who the perpetrators and victims
are. At another point they say that Palestinians who
protested against Israeli rule in the territories "could
be arrested and see their homes bulldozed" and
that the PLO fought back with hijackings and bombings
when, in fact, PLO terrorism long preceded the Israeli
actions to which they refer. Jordan et al. (The
Americans) and Welty and Greenblatt (The Human
Experience-World Regions and Cultures) also mention
the PLO engaged in terrorist activities such as hijackings
and the Munich massacre. The threat posed to Israel
by terrorism is further diminished, however, by the
failure to provide examples (beyond two references to
Munich) of specific attacks.
The most dramatic exceptions to the
reticence to accurately state the PLO's aims are found
in Graff's America: The Glorious Republic, where
the PLO is described as "a terrorist group pledged
to the destruction of Israel," and in Schwartz
and O'Connor's Exploring A Changing World, which
has the following question in the chapter summary: "The
PLO is pledged to attack and destroy: a) Egyptians,
b) Israelis, c) Jordanians."
Incidentally, all the books get the
origins of the PLO wrong. Wallbank and Schrier are the
only ones who correctly state that the heads of the
Arab states were involved. But instead of saying they
created the PLO in 1964, Living World History incorrectly
gives this as the date the PLO was recognized as the
representatives of the Palestinian people, something
that actually occurred a decade later.
Many books also came out shortly after
Arafat's 1988 statements renouncing terrorism and recognizing
Israel. Although the same authors should be aware of
the PLO's subsequent contradictory actions, including
the raid on an Israeli beach that caused the suspension
of the U.S. -PLO dialogue, Arafat's words are given
great importance. In American Odyssey, Nash
maintains Arafat "took a step toward a solution."
Welty and Greenblatt's The Human Experience--World
Regions and Cultures says that he "more or
less acknowledged that Israel had a 'right to exist,'"
whatever that means. At least they correctly state that
Arafat did not renounce military actions against Israel.
Wallbank and Schrier's Living World History claims
Arafat's remarks opened "the way for new negotiations
for peace in the Middle East," though peace talks
did not begin until almost three years later-after the
PLO was forced behind the scenes. Meanwhile, Israel's
arguments for distrusting Arafat are ignored.
The Heroic Intifada
The status of Palestinians in the territories
is given surprisingly short-shrift. The information
presented, however, is entirely one-sided. In Living
World History, for example, Wallbank and Schrier
mention universities being closed. Hantula et al. say
in Global Insights that schools in the territories
have been "subject to Israeli censorship"
and those "who spoke out against the occupation
risked being deported." It is fair to mention deprivations
in the territories, but no one mentions the security
concerns that prompt them. Schools were only closed
after they ceased to be centers of learning and became
instead staging grounds for violent demonstrations.
All the universities are now open. Israeli "censorship"
in schools has been restricted to replacing Jordanian
textbooks laced with anti-Semitic references. The January
1993 deportation of more than 400 Hamas activists has
reinforced the impression that expulsion is a common
method of stopping protests, but it has actually been
used sparingly. Moreover, just speaking out against
the occupation has never been the cause for someone's
expulsion. Even with the military administration, there
is no shortage of Palestinians making their feelings
known. In addition, if these books were to be consistent
in their efforts to present issues in a balanced manner,
they would discuss some improvements in living conditions
in the territories since 1967.
Nash's American Odyssey acknowledges
that Israel modernized the territories in the 1970's
and 80's, but says the Palestinians "were forced
to carry identity cards, usually got the most menial
jobs and, if suspected of causing trouble, could be
beaten, arrested or have their homes bulldozed into
rubble." In truth, Israelis also carry identity
cards. Palestinians often are employed in low-paying
jobs because they are willing to take them and Israelis
generally are not. They are not forced into them. Finally,
Palestinians have to do more than simply be suspected
of causing trouble to merit the treatment Nash describes.
Demolishing homes, for example, is a punishment rarely
used and then only for severe crimes. More important,
unlike elsewhere in the Middle East, the Palestinians
have recourse to the courts.
Some more recent texts discuss the
intifada, which is always described as a reaction to
Israeli actions. No reference is made in Nash (American
Odyssey) or the others to the internecine warfare
labeled the intrafada. Norton et al. simply refer in A People & A Nation to Israeli forces using
brute force to quell "rock-throwing youths."
Nash and Farah and Karls' newer edition of The Human
Experience--A World History incorrectly say the
intifada started when Israeli soldiers were surrounded
and shot and killed a 17-year-old. Welty and Greenblatt's The Human Experience--World Regions and Cultures is the only book to give a complete and accurate
explanation of how the intifada started. Nash actually
devotes more space to inaccurately explaining
the outbreak of the uprising than any other aspect of
the conflict or U.S.-Israel relations. More disturbing
than the narrative, however, is the use of a photo of
Palestinian women demonstrating next to a picture of
the Mandelas, creating the misimpression of a symmetry
between the struggles of Palestinians and black South
The treatment of Arabs in Israel is
largely ignored. One exception is Peretz, who wrote
in The Middle East that they "are not
integrated into the nation's social and political structure."
He calls them second-class citizens. Arab citizens of
Israel have suffered hardships because of their exemption
from military service and inequalities in funding of
Arab municipalities, but they have greater political
rights than Palestinians anywhere else in the Middle
East. They have political parties and Knesset representation,
and are probably as integrated into Israeli society
as most minorities are elsewhere.
The treatment of the causes and conduct
of the Arab-Israeli wars in all the texts was appalling.
The complexities of the conflict are usually reduced
to the Palestinians wanting independence and Israel
resisting. The Arabs' refusal to accept a Jewish state
in their midst is softened to an unwillingness to "recognize"
Israel, a subtle difference that suggests passivity
rather than an active campaign to destroy Israel. Arab
intransigence is never suggested as a cause of the dispute.
The books generally avoid describing Arab provocations
(none mention the Arab boycott), while several go so
far as to blame Israel for the wars. In World History--Traditions
and New Directions, for example, Stearns et al.
say "Israel's quick and successful growth and modernization
contributed even more to Arab-Israeli hostility."
The most consistently incomplete and
inaccurate accounts are of the Suez war. Every world
history text attributes the cause to Nasser's nationalization
of the Suez Canal. Not one mentions the fedayeen raids
or other Egyptian provocations that led Israel to join
Great Britain and France in the war. The closest any
come to suggesting Egypt provoked Israel is a reference
to Nasser blocking the canal (but not the Straits of
Tiran) to Israeli shipping. Stearns et al. assert the
Arabs turned away from Western nations because they
supported Israel, but they do not relate that the United
States opposed the war and pressured Israel to withdraw
from the territory it captured.
A People & A Nation, by
Norton et al., also gets it wrong, suggesting the Suez
War occurred because Secretary of State John Foster
Dulles lost patience with Nasser when he declared neutrality
in the Cold War. Nothing is said about Egypt's arms
deal with the Soviets. As in their earlier reference
to the rationale for recognizing Israel, these authors
say America's position toward Israel was related to
"a vocal Jewish-American lobby." Boyer et
al. write in The Enduring Vision that "Israeli
troops stormed into Egypt." King et al's. The
United States and Its People says that Israel attacked
"bases from which Arabs had been raiding Israel,"
but fail to mention the blockade and erroneously report
that the British and French were forced to withdraw
from territory they occupied while Israel was allowed
to keep the Sinai.
The other American history books were
an improvement. Davidson et al. (American Journey), Jordan et al. (The Americans) and DiBacco
et al. (History of the United States) explain
that Egypt's blockade of the Suez Canal provoked Israel.
Jordan and his coauthors are the only ones to also mention
Egyptian terrorism as a cause of the war. None of the
texts say anything about the blockade of the Gulf of
Accounts of the Six-Day War are not
much better. In fact, with two exceptions, the American
history texts skip the conflict altogether. In A
People & A Nation, Norton et al. say only that
Israel used American weapons "to score victories
over Egypt and Syria" and that Israel seized the
West Bank and the ancient city of Jerusalem from Jordan,
the Golan Heights from Syria and the Sinai Peninsula
from Egypt." Boyer et al's The Enduring Vision makes a similar reference to Jerusalem being seized
from Jordan. Similarly, Abramowitz talks in World
History-For A Global Age about Egyptian provocations
in 1967, but does not say anything about Jordan or Syria.
He then states that Israel took territory from all three
countries, making it sound like there was no reason
for its action on the Golan Heights or the West Bank.
He also says that Jerusalem had been an international
city, ignoring Jordanian control from 1949 on. Steams
et al's. World History--Traditions and New Directions says Israel seized "Jordan's West Bank"
and the "Jordanian half of Jerusalem." No
one relates that Israel warned King Hussein to stay
out of the fighting, and that it was his failure to
do so that led to the territory he occupied being taken.
Moreover, they create the false impression that Jordan
has a claim to Jerusalem.
In World History-Patterns of Civilization, Beers writes that "both sides had been building
up their armed forces" before the war and that
during the fighting Israel seized the "Arab half
of Jerusalem." In the 1990 edition of The Human
Experience-A World History, Farah and Karls do
not give any cause for the Six-Day War. The 1992 edition,
however, does talk about Syria engaging in border clashes
and wanting to eliminate Israel, the only reference
any book makes to Syrian provocations. They add, however,
that Nasser "aided Syria by closing the Gulf of
Aqaba to Israel," creating the misperception that
Egypt was more of an accomplice than the provocateur.
The same section has a picture with the following caption:
"Learning from Photographs. An Israeli armored
vehicle patrols the Golan Heights. What other land did
Israel seize in the Six-Day War?" If this is what
students are being taught to learn from pictures, the
thought of what they might be taking away from the evening
news is truly frightening.
In The Human Experience-World Regions
and Cultures, Welty and Greenblatt say the U.S.
supported Israel in 1967 when, in fact, Johnson imposed
an arms embargo and had warned against going to war.
They are among the few authors to say anything about
Soviet involvement in the conflict; however, they make
it sound as if Soviet aid to Egypt and Syria was equal
to that given to Israel by the U.S. before 1973. In
fact, American aid was relatively small until the outbreak
of the Yom Kippur War. The Soviets completely rebuilt
the Arab arsenals while Israel was struggling to convince
the United States to supply sophisticated aircraft.
All of the texts ignore the War of
Attrition, reflecting a general tendency not to treat
the engagements from 1969-70 as a war. But fighting
lasted 16 months and resulted in the death of 600 Israeli
soldiers and 127 civilians. Another 2,000 soldiers and
700 civilians were wounded.
One of the most glaring omissions from
several books is the failure to mention that the 1973
war began when Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack
on Yom Kippur. Beers (World History-Patterns of
Civilization), for example, says they just declared
war. Norton et al. (A People & A Nation) write
that Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on October 6. Nash (American Odyssey) refers to the war twice,
one to say that an oil embargo was imposed on the United
States and another to falsely report that "in 1948,
1956, 1967 and again in 1973, the Israelis fought wars with Arab forces, gaining more land with each victory."
The impression given is that Israel was fighting wars
for the acquisition of territory. Farah and Karls (The
Human Experience-A World History claim Egypt and
Syria "fought to get back land lost" in 1967,
without mentioning when or how the attack occurred.
In the 1992 edition, they correct this. Abramowitz (World
History-For A Global Age) is one of the few to
point out that other Arab states participated in the
Boyer et al. distort the origins of
the war in The Enduring Vision. "Following
a several-year-long Arab war of attrition against the
Israelis, and concurrent bombing raids by Israel on
its neighbors, Moscow-backed Syrian and Egyptian forces
launched an all-out attack against Israel." The
surprise attack did not immediately follow the war of
attrition, which effectively ended in 1970, nor was
it related to bombing raids by Israel. The turning point
in the war is attributed to "massive U.S. shipments
of highly sophisticated weaponry," but the almost
equally massive Soviet shipment of sophisticated arms
to the Arabs is not mentioned.
After the war, Boyer et al. assert
that Nixon "shifted U.S. foreign policy from its
traditional exclusive support for Israel to a more evenhanded
relationship with the contending Middle Eastern nations."
This is almost the exact opposite of what happened.
It was only after 1973 that the U.S. began to explicitly
work to give Israel a qualitative advantage over its
adversaries. The text goes on to credit Henry Kissinger's
shuttle diplomacy with smoothing U.S.-Arab relations,
but asserts this "did not alter the root cause
of Middle Eastern stability, especially the fate of
the Palestinians." The notion that the plight of
the Palestinians is central to the conflict is not surprising
given the book's almost total neglect of inter-Arab
disputes and U.S. policy toward countries like Jordan,
Iraq, Libya and Saudi Arabia.
Discussing the period between 1979
and 1982, Norton et al. write in A People &
A Nation: "Even ally Israel gave the United
States trouble" by bombing PLO camps in Lebanon
and "killing hundreds of civilians," and by
annexing the Golan Heights. "Many American supporters
of Israel, recognizing that the Jewish state faced hostile
Arabs, nonetheless became impatient with Israel's provocative
acts toward its neighbors." This is a complete
distortion of the situation during those years. Israeli
attacks on PLO camps did cause casualties but these
were not unprovoked. Moreover, it is not clear who they
are referring to when they say American supporters of
Israel were impatient. On the contrary, support during
those years was quite strong. The authors continue in
a misleading direction when they write that in June
1982 Israeli troops "invaded civil war-torn Lebanon,
cutting their way to the capital Beirut and inflicting
massive damage. The beleaguered PLO and various Lebanese
factions called upon Syria to contain the Israelis.
Thousands of civilians died in the multifaceted conflict
and a million people became refugees." Again, the
authors give the impression that Israel's actions were
unprovoked and disproportionate. They hedge by calling
the conflict "multifaceted," but only refer
to the Israeli role.
Similarly, Abramowitz's World History
for A Global Age says Israel "accused"
the PLO of using Lebanon as a base. Though Palestinians
are sometimes mentioned as a destabilizing force, most
books ignore the fact that King Hussein crushed the
PLO revolt in Jordan and sparked the Palestinian exodus
to Lebanon. The impression given is that the Palestinians
in Lebanon all came from Israel.
The Syrian role in Lebanon is consistently
whitewashed. In The Middle East, Peretz says
only that Syria was authorized to intervene in the civil
war. Steams et al. assert in World History- Traditions
and New Directions the "Syrians feared that
a Muslim victory would invite an Israeli invasion of
their country." No one explains Hafez Assad's vision
of Greater Syria or Syria's continued occupation of
Lebanon. In the later edition of The Human Experience-A
World History Farah and Karls go as far as to speak
of new signs of "hope" in Lebanon in 1990
because of Syria ousting a Christian General (Michel
Aoun) who stood in the way of the Arab League's peace
Recent volumes also briefly discuss
the Gulf War. Schwartz and O'Connor's Exploring
A Changing World calls the Persian Gulf crisis
"the most serious situation to date in the Middle
East." They assert the war was over oil, not even
referencing the Bush Administration's declared reasons.
Also, no mention is made of the SCUD attack on Israel.
Israel as the Obstacle to Peace
The peace process is consistently handled
simplistically, routinely putting the onus on Israel
for the conflict and portraying Israelis as uncompromising.
In The Middle East, for example, Peretz says
that after 1967 "many Israelis believed that their
country was the dominant military power in the Middle
East. Because of this belief, they thought they would
be able to maintain the status quo without making any
concessions." This despite the fact that Israel
was prepared to withdraw from much of the West Bank
and, as Peretz acknowledges, later did give back the
Considering the frequent discussion
in the press of U.N. Resolution 242, it was surprising
that none of the books cite it. The closest any came
were Farah and Karls saying in The Human Experience-A
World History that the U.N. asked Israel to withdraw,
but it refused to do so until the Arabs recognize its
right to exist. Elsewhere, however, they place the responsibility
more clearly on the Israelis, asserting that they "have
refused to negotiate until their country is recognized
by the Arabs." It is untrue that Israel made this
a precondition of talks; moreover, past negotiations
all took place without Arab recognition. This misplaced
emphasis on Arab recognition also brings to mind Abba
Eban's remark: "There is certainly no other state,
big or small, young or old, that would consider mere
recognition of its 'right to exist' a favor, or a negotiable
concession" (New York Times, November
15, 1981). More important,
however, the essence of Resolution 242 is distorted
by failing to make clear the linkage between territorial
withdrawal and peace.
In A People & A Nation, Norton
et al. note that Israel and Egypt reached an agreement
in 1975 whereby peacekeepers would be moved into the
Sinai. But, they say, other problems remained: "the
homeless Palestinian Arabs, Israeli occupation of Jerusalem
and the West Bank, Israel's insistence on building settlements
in occupied lands, and Arab threats to destroy the Jewish
state." It is bizarre to equate the Arab desire
to destroy Israel with political disagreements over
the West Bank. Moreover, the authors are revising history
to make it seem as though current disputes were issues
nearly 20 years ago. For example, what homeless Palestinians
are they referring to? No Palestinians were displaced
in the 1973 war and none from earlier conflicts lacked
places to live. Israel's control of the territories
was indeed an issue, but little settlement activity
took place before 1977 and did not become a major issue
until it was raised by President Carter.
On the subject of peace, Camp David
is usually given prominence, though the facts are sometimes
garbled. Schwartz and O'Connor devote one sentence in Exploring A Changing World to the Israeli-Egyptian
peace treaty, but do not mention Camp David. Farah and
Karls give away their bias in The Human Experience-A
World History by discussing the subject under the
subhead, "Separate Peace." Welty and Greenblatt
got their facts partially right in The Human Experience--World
Regions and Cultures. They are among the few to
give Begin credit for inviting Sadat to Jerusalem, but
they say the invitation was to Egypt's "new leader,"
though Sadat had been in power for seven years. Wallbank
and Schrier's Living World History teaches
that the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty is known as the
Camp David Accords. Actually, the accords established
the framework for peace; the treaty was signed six months
later. Though they and some others acknowledge that
Israel returned the Sinai, no sense of the magnitude
of this sacrifice is given. No one mentions, for example,
that the Sinai constituted 91 percent of the territory
Israel won in 1967.
Given that the Egyptian-Israeli peace
treaty was one of the most significant diplomatic achievements
of the postwar era, the American history texts might
have been expected to devote a bit more attention to
the subject. Norton et al's. A People & A Nation has a paragraph on Camp David, crediting President
Carter's "tenacious diplomacy" for the treaty
and not even mentioning Sadat's trip to Jerusalem. In The Enduring Vision, Boyer et al. say "Carter
saw an opening" when Sadat made his historic trip,
but the truth was almost the opposite. Carter saw Sadat's
move as jeopardizing his plans to achieve a comprehensive
settlement. In The United States and Its People, King et al. at least grant Begin credit for inviting
Sadat to Jerusalem, but they give the false impression
that Carter's meeting with Sadat in April 1977 to discuss
aid was linked to the Egyptian President's decision
to go to Jerusalem in November. If there was any linkage,
it was Sadat's recognition that Carter's policy would
not lead to a breakthrough and that he had to act unilaterally.
Nash has a truly unique interpretation of the events
leading to the peace treaty, arguing in American
Odyssey that Carter seized the opportunity after
hearing Sadat tell Walter Cronkite that he would do
whatever he could to make peace with Israel. Neither
Nash nor several of the others discuss the substance
of the agreement or its significance.
The peace process after Camp David
receives no real attention. Norton et al. wrote in A
People & A Nation that Washington continued
to offer peace plans, but that "Israel refused
to negotiate." In The Enduring Vision, Boyer
et al. state that the Reagan Plan called for the creation
of a Palestinian homeland on the West Bank, something
the plan does not say. Moreover, the book doesn't mention
that the Arabs joined Israel in opposing it. Welty and
Greenblatt write in The Human Experience--World
Regions and Cultures that, following Camp David,
Palestinians looked forward to a Palestinian state.
They are also the only ones to report the Shamir election
proposal. In the 1992 edition of The Human Experience-A
World History, Farah and Karls note that the Palestinians
never had self-rule under Jordan, which annexed the
West Bank, a key fact ignored by the other texts and
these authors in earlier editions. Peretz's The
Middle East is the only book to acknowledge that
no Palestinians called for a state from 1949-67 while
Jordan controlled the West Bank.
An important aspect of the pursuit
of peace from 1979 until August 1993 was the Palestinian
rejection of autonomy. Still, Palestinian intransigence
is never mentioned or implied. Instead, the problem
is reduced to the refusal of Israel to accept what is
presented as the reasonable desire of Palestinians to
return to their land and create "a democratic nonreligious
Palestinian state." Even if the complexity of the
issue could be reduced to such a simple formula, it
is still grossly misleading to suggest the Palestinians
would adopt such a government given the undemocratic
nature of its current society and the salience of religion
that is evident in the ongoing battles between Islamic
groups and the PLO.
Stearns et al. stray from presenting
historical facts to polemics when they assert in World
History--Traditions and New Directions that the
chances of Palestinians reaching their goal of an independent
state diminished as Israel established settlements.
The settlement issue, otherwise, is not raised in the
various texts, which is probably for the best given
the virtual certainty that their role, location and
numbers would go unexplained.
A few books mention that security is
an issue, but do not go beyond vague generalities. No
analysis of the geography of Israel is presented despite
the emphasis many books place on the physical description
of nations. Furthermore, the debate in Israel about
the territories is portrayed misleadingly. For example,
in World History--Patterns of Civilization Beers
gives the impression that the extreme positions on the
right and left are the most prevalent: "Some want
to expel all Arabs from the West Bank. Other Israelis
favor compromise. Some would accept a Palestinian state
west of the Jordan River under certain conditions."
It would be nice to say that this study
unearthed some high quality texts, but it would not
be true. Of the 18 books, only two deserve recommendations.
In world history, Welty and Greenblatt's, The Human
Experience--World Regions and Cultures does the
best job of covering important events with a minimum
of distortion. Still, as noted throughout the study,
the book has some deficiencies. Among the American history
texts, Henry Graff's, America: The Glorious Republic was easily the class of the field (and ironically
the oldest). This book was not flawless, but it provided
an excellent presentation of the facts. The lack of
references in this study to mistakes is evidence of
the quality of scholarship.
One reason the texts are so bad is
that they are not adequately reviewed by experts in
the field. The authors also appear to overlook basic
sources and most lack footnotes or bibliographies. The
couple of books that did have references only seemed
to prove the inadequacy of the authors' research. In Global Insights, for example, Hantula et al.
cite obscure or marginal sources such as a book on the
Palestinians by Frank Epp published in 1976. Peretz,
a legitimate Middle East expert, inexplicably uses as
sources for The Middle East, Uri Avnery, Amos
Elon, Amos Oz and David Shipler. The only serious historian
listed in his bibliography on modem Israel is Howard
Publishers may argue that later editions
of books correct earlier errors, but none of the revised
works reviewed here eliminated all the problems. In
fact, some newer texts were made worse. In addition,
many schools can afford to replace texts only infrequently,
so many students will continue to be educated with misinformation
from the earlier volumes.
What Can Be Done?
The only way the quality of education
can be improved is if parents take an active role in
their children's schooling. Students are not likely
to recognize problems with their textbooks, it's up
to their parents. If a book appears problematic, the
relevant passages can be forwarded to the American-Israeli
Cooperative Enterprise for analysis. If they are inaccurate
or biased, we would recommend that a protest be made
to the teacher, the school and the school board, outlining
the problem and expressing an interest in seeing that
a more suitable book be used.
Besides alerting local school officials,
protests should also be made to the publishers. The
people who are responsible for putting out textbooks
are not anti-Semites out to corrupt the nation's youth.
Often they are harried editors who depend on reviewers
to catch errors. The best publishers do not want mistakes
in their books and will take steps to correct them.
Sometimes, they may be reluctant. In the case of The
Enduring Vision, I wrote an article on its deficiencies
in the Near East Report, which provoked many
angry letters to DC Heath. The publisher's initial response
was defensive, claiming there "were a few factual
slips" but that passages were quoted out of context.
Reputable experts were subsequently brought in, however,
to correct the errors and to provide more background
explanations of Middle East events. In the end, the
publisher produced a better book and students had a
more useful educational tool.
Abramowitz, Jack, World History--For
A Global Age (1985, Globe Book, 190 Sylvan Ave.,
Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632).
Beers, Benton, World History--Patterns
of Civilization (1990, Prentice Hall, Englewood
Cliffs, NJ 07632).
Boyer, Paul et al., The Enduring
Vision, (1990, DC Heath, 125 Spring St., Lexington,
Davidson, James West, Mark Lytle and
Michael Staff, American Journey, (1992, Prentice
Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632).
DiBacco, Thomas, Lorna Mason and Christian
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